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Copenhagen, Denmark
          

June 23

The weather didn’t seem to want to make up its mind and we wanted to do a walking tour. After breakfast we waited for the heavy rainfall to finish before heading out of the Norlandia Richmond Hotel with Ted and our rain jackets stowed in the day bag. We walked passed Tivoli Gardens, Europe’s first grand amusement park dating back to 1843. It was a political ploy ... keep the people busy having fun and they won’t have time nor the inclination to boot out the monarchy.

An open backed truck decorated with streamers, flags, banners and balloons turned the corner with the whoops and joyful hollers of its young passengers who filled the cargo space. Every June students, celebrating graduation, cheer and chant through town in adorned horse drawn carts, antique cars and trucks.

On a corner near City Hall stands a tower with the golden, fair-weather girls at the top. We were impressed, for there they were as they should be ... the one with the umbrella was half way in and half way out while the girl with the bicycle, who states it is bright and sunny, was also half way in and halfway out.

We were impressed ... until we found out that they have been stuck in that position for years.

A statue of Denmark’s favourite author, Hans Christian Andersen, sits near the corner of the City Hall. His knee has been buffed to a shine from people climbing up to have their photos taken ... some reports tell of photographees also being "buff" in this most liberal of cites.

The cow craze has also hit Copenhagen and throughout the city we saw numerous painted fibreglass cows. Our first sighting was a gold one suspended above Stroget, "The Walking Street"... perhaps a lookout for the illegal shell game just a block beyond.

In the old town centre Rick Steves’ guide book pointed out the ornate kiosk. Before people could afford home phones, this was Copenhagen’s first community phone booth. In the carvings at the top two women are pictured talking into bells joined by coils of cable. Today people buy a beer at the kiosk and drink it at one of the umbrellaed tables while they talk on their cell phones.

 
 

 An orchestra was setting up in front of the old, former city hall and we stopped for awhile to enjoy the music along with others who filled the square at café tables, sat on the old city hall steps or shared a raised section where once public floggings took place ... where today children climbed on another painted fibreglass cow. How times have changed.

 

Back in the mid 12th century, Copenhagen ... Kobenhavn in Danish ... meant Merchants’ Harbour. Today the city benefits from being the country’s capital ... a liveable city packed with ambience, history, castles, museums and culture ... all easily accessible.

Its public transport system (buses, suburban trains and Metro) moves people easily and efficiently. Its downtown areas and streets are pedestrian friendly. The 180% tax on the purchase of automobiles keeps traffic problems to a minimum. 

Stands for the free bicycles are everywhere; their use is on the same principal as shopping carts back home ... put in your coin and get it back when you drop it off at another free stand in the city. Copenhagen is, by far, the most bicycle welcome city we have ever visited. Tops of metro stations in Copenhagen create a new image for North Americans for the term "Park and Ride". Here the space is crowed with bikes leaning upon their kick stands. Streets are shared by sidewalks, designated bicycle lanes and auto traffic ... all who seem to obey the rules of the road to make it work smoothly and safely. Even with all this working smoothly – to our eyes – posted notices tell how the city this year is "totally transforming" its public transport system. The metro stations we were in are stainless steel modern, clean and graffiti clear. Car purchasers are encouraged to look seriously at the size and efficiency of their new purchase as the government lessens the tax crunch in ratio with milage efficiency (even at best the tax bite for new cars only goes down to around 150%).

We arrived at Kongens Nytorv, "Kings New Square", the largest square in town and sought out our late lunch eatery, the Hviids Vinstue - Copenhagen’s oldest wine cellar (from the early 1700s). Settling at our outside table we each ordered a "smorrebrod", Denmark’s 300 year old lunch time tradition of open-face sandwiches. Three sandwiches and a beer each, and we were set for more exploring. Unfortunately the weather had other plans. We worked our way back to the hotel, dodging rain showers and umbrellas, and decided to call it a day.

 
              

June 24

Day dawned drizzly. We had an 11:00 am English guided tour of Christiansborg Palace planned, so we headed out ... and just made it as the tour was starting as we arrived. Our guide was most enthusiastic and proud showing us where her royal family holds functions and entertains. The building also serves the Prime Minister and she spoke of how athletic he is. "He greets his guests on the ground floor," she explained with a smile, "and shows them to the elevator. As they ride up, he runs up two flights of stairs and greets them again as they come off the elevator."

She showed us, through an partially open door, the balcony where the royal family and the Prime Minister gather to proclaim the death of a monarch or announce ascension to the throne.   "It is very dirty right now. The pigeons use it for their toilet. It will be well cleaned before use by Their Majesties."

Leaving the palace, after an enjoyable tour, we made our way to the nearby canal for a tour of the city by water. It was still sprinkling when we boarded and began raining in earnest as we paid and took our seats in the open top boat ... but it didn’t last long. The 75 minute ride, with commentary in English and Danish, was most enjoyable ... and educational.

The bronze statue of the Little Mermaid, Copenhagen’s icon from the beloved story by Hans Christian Anderson, has been part of the harbour front for almost 95 years and is visited by over a half million tourists every year.

Set in place in 1913, she is the work of Danish sculptor Edvard Eriksen (1876-1959), whose 29 year old pregnant wife, Eline, was the model. During her long vigil, on her rock, the Little Mermaid has suffered many indignities. She has been decapitated twice, lost an arm once and has often been dowsed with paint and covered with graffiti ... as recent as May 2007.

We didn’t get a chance to photograph her from shore ... which is the best angle ... but caught her amongst her tour-bus-loads of adoring public.

 
 
 

Our favourite part of the water tour would probably be Ny Havn (New Harbour). In Hans Christian Anderson’s day it was a place of drunken sailors and prostitutes. Hans didn’t seem to mind. He lived on both sides of the canal in three different homes ... one now painted white, another red and another orange. Wanting to clean up the area and bring in some new blood, the government offered free moorage to antique wooden boats. Rowdy drinking holes and flop houses have now been turned into stylish tourist cafés and upscale apartments. The oldest pub, called the "Hong Kong" still has some of the old flavour inside with dockside tables outside. We disembarked and headed to the Hong Kong, ordered a draft and soaked in the setting while doing some people watching.

 
 

Our next stop was the National Museum ... a beautifully display of Danish history spanning 15,000 years from Ice Age to modern times. The museum is celebrating its bicentenary this year, having been founded in 1807. Its located in the elegant Prinsens Palace. Many of the displays not only identify the item but tell something about its background. For example, combs (the kind you comb hair with) of bone and antlers. Comb making was once a specialised trade, carried out in European towns. Equally the humble bowl. All members of a household took part in the two principal meals – "davre" (in the morning) and "nadver" (in the evening). The master of the house would be seated at the head of the table and said grace before and after the meal. Everybody had his or her own knife and spoon. (The fork was introduced in well-to-do houses in the late 17th century). Ordinary people used wooden bowls while the more prosperous preferred lead plates (they didn’t know about lead poisoning back then). Beer was drunk out of stoneware jugs or wooden cups. Glasses were used for special occasions.

 

 

In one room, a fascinating display featured a flat square table with colours painted in swirls around a shiny metal pipe placed upright in the centre. It looked like one of those spin pictures you can make at fairs and carnivals today. But on closer inspection (you will need to see photo for this) the pipe was reflecting a proper image ... in this case a well dressed Renaissance man. Fascinating ... as were so many displays.

In another room of the once-palace we found ... hold on ... drum roll please ... yes! ... again ... yet another ... George and a dragon. This time the pieces which made up the set were carved from wood in 1520. This dragon had human arms and hands ... one of which was holding George’s lost lance. But do not despair ... George’s trusty steed has reared up giving George a chance to draw his mighty sword. The artist has posed him in the moment of holding his sword skyward.

Two hours flew by so quickly. We would have liked to stay longer but they were closing for the day. Should we return to Copenhagen, we would place the National Museum high upon our to-do list.

Dinner was at a Rick Steves’ recommended restaurant, the RizRaz. It has a super vegetarian buffet. Great options, good flavours, well priced ... and for those who need their animal protein, they have meat dishes on their menu as well, which come with trips to the buffet. We sat outside under an umbrella, for the clouds were threatening again. Three tour groups arrived while we were there, but the restaurant seemed to be able to handle them without difficulty.

 
 

The sky had cleared and the evening sun glowed as we strolled back to our room, passed the shell game under the hanging gold cow and passed the South American musicians dressed in North American Indian costumes (seen worldwide) playing pan flute music along with the cds they hawk. The golden weather girl still had her bike’s front wheel out ... even though we knew it was broken, it gave us hope for a drier day tomorrow.

 
 
 
       

June 25

We suppose most people don’t feel their age. Aging, in the mind, stalls somewhere in the early thirties. Even then it doesn’t take much ... a song perhaps ... to slip back even further into the late teens. It can happen if aches and pains don’t bother one for a time and there are no mirrors around to mess up these feelings and bring us back to reality. Meeting friends we haven’t seen nor spoken to for years can also send reality-shock waves. "Thirty years! Really?" It took some adjustment ... so much had happened during those thirty years ... so much ... so fast!

It was back in university days that Rudy and Terry had met. They started and built a business together, became roommates and eventually sold the business. Soon afterwards their careers took them in different directions and then to different continents. Busy with life, they lost touch but not the memories.

We believed Rudy was somewhere in Denmark ... somewhere. Yesterday we acquired a list of people with his name and starting at the top of the list Terry called the first phone number. Rudy answered. For the first minute he thought it was one of his friends teasing him with an English accent. But the accent was too good. Terry told him who it was. Surprise! We didn’t know it was Rudy’s birthday. Rudy and Nanna invited us to come out the next day ... today.

 

Excitement and perhaps some nervousness accompanied our train ride to the village where they live.

 Will he recognize us?

Will we recognize him?

Will there be uncomfortable silence?

 We had no need to worry.

Minutes after our reunion any concerns disappeared ... and so did the years ... they melted away with good conversation and laughter.

We had never met Rudy’s wife, Nanna, but as we started to relive our time with Rudy (through some wonderful photo dvds he had produced), Nanna’s friendship felt natural ... as though she too had shared those years with us.

Our plan was to visit for two and a half hours ... it stretched into six!   A truly wonderful day with treasured friendships ... old and new.

 
 
 

June 26

Flew from Copenhagen to Stansted, England (after an almost three hour wait on the tarmac) and bused to our accommodations near Heathrow.

        

June 27 - July 9

Flew from London, England to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

We spent some time with Bryan, Tammie and our grandchildren, Tavis and Tyler ...

 

- watching soccer games (where Tavis #8 scored the first goal of the game),

- having tea parties (with Ted and Snowy)

- visiting the wild life park

- taking walks

- celebrating Canada Day at Victoria Park

- trying to keep ahead of the grandchildren

- relaxing in the sun

- trying, when we could, to help out

- watching soccer practices

- hiking and having picnics

- swimming at the local outdoor pool

- doing some art projects

and having dinners together, Skip-Bo games and visiting.

 
 
   

July 10

Flew home to Vancouver, B.C.

      

 

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